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The Mother Writes to the Murderer: A Letter by Naomi Shihab Nye

The Mother Writes to the Murderer: A Letter

byNaomi Shihab Nye


To you whose brain is a blunt fist

pushed deep inside your skull

whose eyes are empty bullets

whose mouth is a stone more speechless

than lost stones at the bottoms of rivers

who lives in a shrunken world where nothing blooms

and no promise is ever kept


To you who face I never saw but now see

everywhere the rest of my life


You don’t know where she hid her buttons


arranged in families by color or size

tissue-wrapped in an oatmeal box

how she told them goodnight sleep well

and never felt ashamed


You don’t know her favorite word

and I won’t tell you


You don’t have her drawings taped to your refrigerator

blue circuses, red farms

You don’t know she cried once in a field of cows

saying they were too beautiful to eat


I’m sure you never thought of that

I’m sure nothing is too beautiful for you to eat


You have no idea what our last words were to one another

how terribly casual


because I thought she was going a block away

with her brother to the store

They would be back in ten minutes


I was ironing her dress

while two houses away an impossible darkness

rose up around my little girl


What can I wish you in return?

I was thinking knives and pistols

high voltages searing off your nerves

I was wishing you could lose your own life

bit by bit finger by toe

and know what my house is like


how many doors I still have to open


Maybe worse would be for you to love something

and have it snatched up sifted out of your sight

for what reason?

a flurry of angels recalled to heaven

and then see how you sit

and move and remember

how you sleep at night

how you feel about mail my letter to you

all the letters passing through all the hands

of the people on earth

when the only one that matters

is the one you can neither receive

nor send




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